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Tent Camping Essentials: The Gear You Need for a Successful Trip

Tent camping is a fun activity for just about anyone. Whether you’re visiting a local primitive campsite or braving a backpacking trip, you need to be prepared with all the tent camping essentials for a successful trip.

When you’re tent camping, you need to think about your sleeping comfort, your meal plans, how you will stay safe, and which tools will you need for your best trip. Coming prepared with the necessary items in these categories will set you up for a dream tent camping trip.

Keep reading to see our must-have tent camping essentials that we wouldn’t dare camp in a tent without!

A camping table laid out for morning coffee. Tent Camping Essentials.

Get Comfortable!

1. Weather-Resistant Tent

You don’t want to buy just any tent–it’s a tent-camping essential to own a weather-resistant tent. After all, you don’t want to leave your campsite soaked in the event of an inevitable rainstorm.

Read our buyers’ guide for buying a tent before buying your next tent, then check out a few of our favorites:

Coleman Montana Camping Tent

Coleman Montana Camping Tent, 6/8 Person Family Tent with Included Rainfly, Carry Bag, and Spacious Interior, Fits Multiple Queen Airbeds and Sets Up in 15 Minutes

AMPEX Backpacking Tent

AMPEX Backpacking Tent | Camping Tent Lightweight Backpacking Tent Waterproof Windproof Easy Setup Outdoor Tents for Ultralight Single Camping Hunting Hiking Mountaineering Travel (3 Person)

2. Sleeping Pad / Air Mattress

The ground is hard, so your back will thank you for bringing a comfortable sleeping pad or air mattress. One or the other is a tent camping essential for every tent camper. Check out our sleeping pad and air mattress recommendations.

3. Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bags are tent camping essentials because they keep you warm in a way a blanket simply cannot, so you’re going to want to bring a sleeping bag with you on your tent camping trip.

If you’re new to tent camping or unsatisfied with your current sleeping bag, read our post on how to choose a sleeping bag. Or save some time and just pick up one of these:

Coleman Brazos Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag

Coleman Sleeping Bag | Cold-Weather 20°F Brazos Sleeping Bag, Navy, 10" x 17.8" x 10.4"

4. Camp Pillow

When your head lays in the same position, you create stress on your back and neck, so a camping pillow is a must-have tent camping essential. Camping pillows are often inflatable, so they’re easy to store and transport. Check out our favorite camping pillow:

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow

Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow for Camping, Backpacking, Airplanes and Road Trips, Denim, Medium - 14 x 18 Inches

5. Extra Blankets

Blankets serve many purposes that aren’t just related to keeping you warm, which makes them a tent campaign essential. They’re handy for laying out under the stars in the evening, enjoying a daytime picnic after a hike, or hanging up to block the sun. Check out our favorite camping blanket:

KingCamp Lightweight Down Alternative Camping Blanket

KingCamp Grey Packable Lightweight Travel Down Alternative Warm Camping Blanket, Compact Outdoor Waterproof Insulated Blanket for Airplane, Hiking, Backpacking, Stadium, Park

Time to Eat!

6. Food Storage and Bins

Proper food storage is an absolute must-have tent camping essential for organization, easy cleanup, and keeping your campsite safe from bears. Learning how to store food while camping is an essential camping skill.

Rubbermaid ActionPacker️ 48 Gal Lockable Storage Bin, Industrial, Rugged Large Storage Container with Lid

Rubbermaid Storage Bins provide excellent storage. They’re stackable, making them easy to store in your vehicle’s trunk. Best of all, they have an ultra-strong lid that locks, making it nearly impossible for bears and raccoons to sneak inside.

7. Pre-Packed Meals or Food for Cooking

Camp food is one of the most exciting parts of camping, so it’s a tent camping essential you pack all the ingredients you need so you don’t have to leave your campsite to find the nearest grocery store (which could be miles away if you’re truly in the wilderness).

Check out the complete camping food list for planning and packing. We’ve also put together a list of cheap camping meals you’re going to want to try!

8. Camp Stove or Grill

Not all camp meals are going to be made on a campfire. If you’re camping in the heat of summer, the last thing you want to do is start a campfire at noon to cook lunch.

Plus, you might end up camping in an area that has a burn ban (Always check for burn bans before heading out to your tent site).

It’s a tent camping essential and lifehack to bring a camping stove or camping grill along to cook some of your meals. You will save time and firewood, too! Here are the ones we use and love:

Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill

Weber Q1200 Liquid Propane Grill, Black

Camp Chef Mountain Series Everest 2X Camping Stove

Camp Chef Mountain Series Everest 2X High Output Two-Burner Cooking System

9. Water Filter

Don’t limit yourself to drinking water you have to bring with you. Water gets bulky really fast. Packing a water filter to make rainwater, lake water, river water, and other water sources safe to drink is a tent camping essential.

Here are some water filters we like:

10. Utensils and Cookware

Bringing utensils and cookware designed for camping is a tent camping essential. We like the Alocs Camping Cookware because of its nonstick surface and foldable wire handles for easy transport. The set also comes with a mesh bag.

Alocs Camping Cookware, Compact/Lightweight/Durable Camping Pots and Pans Set, Camping Cooking Set for Outdoor Backpacking Camping Hiking Picnic, Included Mesh Carry Bag

For tableware, we like the Stansport Enamel Camping Tableware Set. Enameled steel is a trusted type of camping cookware for years because of it’s durability and lightweight. This set has four bowls, plates, spoons, forks, and cups.

Stansport Enamel Camping Tableware Set, 24-Piece, Blue

11. Water Basin

Bringing a water basin is a tent camping essential because it will make washing dishes much easier, especially if you have something that needs to soak a little bit. We recommend bringing a collapsible water basin, so you can transport it easily.

Vamako 9L Collapsible Dish Tub Portable Sink, Folding Laundry Tub, Washing Basin with draining Plug, Camping Dish Tub, Portable wash Dish Basin. (Gray)

We like the Vamako 9L Collapsible Dish Tub Portable Sink because it has a draining plug, so you can easily release the water when you’re done. You can also use a collapsible water basin for other purposes, such as washing food or doing laundry.

Safety First!

12. Tweezers

You never know when you might need a pair of tweezers when you’re tent camping, so it’s a tent camping essential to add them to your first-aid kit. Splinters can happen anywhere, especially in the great outdoors.

We recommend buying non-magnetic, stainless steel (anti-rust) tweezers for use outdoors. The Vastar Precision ESD Kit comes with three different styles of tweezers and a carrying pouch.

Vastar Precision ESD Tweezer Kit, Anti-Static Non-magnetic Tweezers, ESD-10 Pointed Tip/ESD-13 Rounded Tip/ESD-15 Curved Tip, Stainless Steel/Rust-proof/Storage Pouch

Other uses for tweezers:

  • Gripping any item that is too small to manipulate with your fingers, such as eggshells
  • Grooming
  • Tick removal

13. Flashlight and/or Head Lamp

Light is so important while tent camping, so you want to come prepared with a flashlight and/or a headlamp (we’d bring both).

This battery-powered headlamp flashlight designed by LHKNL is super bright and rechargeable. It’s also waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about it getting wet in the rain. The headlamp also has a motion sensor mode, for detecting movement near your campsite (which could save your life!)

LHKNL Headlamp Flashlight, 1200 Lumen Ultra-Light Bright LED Rechargeable Headlight with White Red Light,2-Pack Waterproof Motion Sensor Head Lamp,8 Modes for Outdoor Camping Running Cycling Fishing

These Gearlight Tactical Flashlights should be in everyone’s gear bag. They are constructed from military-grade aluminum, making them water-resistant and able to withstand a 10-foot drop. The flashlights are compact and will easily fit in your pocket.

GearLight 2pack LED Flashlights High Lumens - Mini Flashlights for Camping, Hiking, Dog Walking - Powerful Emergency Flashlights with 5 Modes for Outdoor Use - Bright Flashlight with Zoomable Beam

14. Plenty of Soap

Don’t skimp out on soap. You need soap for all sorts of reasons: showering, washing dishes, and cleaning any cuts before applying ointment or a bandage.

We recommend a biodegradable environmentally-friendly soap like Campsuds Biodegradable Soap, which smells wonderful and does not damage grass or soil. It also claims to deter insects from your campsite.

Sierra Dawn Campsuds Biodegradable Soap with Insect Deterrent Citronella, Lavender, Peppermint Oils (4 Ounce Bottle)

15. Bandages

Scratches and scrapes can happen at any time, especially when you’re tent camping in the wilderness surrounded by tree branches and nature. Come to your tent site stocked with plenty of waterproof bandages in every shape and size, so you can be prepared for whatever cut comes your way.

Curad Assorted Bandages Variety Pack 300 Pieces, Including Antibacterial, Heavy Duty, Fabric, and Waterproof Bandages

We also recommend bringing gauze rolls in case you get a deeper cut.

16. Triple Antibiotic Ointment

If you do get a cut, you should apply Triple Antibiotic Ointment like Neosporin to prevent an infection from developing. Neosporin provides 24-hour protection from infection for minor wounds.

Be Prepared!

17. Lighter or Matches

You need a lighter or match to start a fire or light your camp grill, and luckily they’re inexpensive, lightweight, and easy tools to add to your gear. You should avoid disposable lighters because no one wants to have a bunch of empty lighters lying around their campsite.

We like the UST TekFire LED Fuel-Free Lighter because it’s powered by a USB rechargeable battery instead of fuel.

ustTekFire LED Fuel-Free Lighter with Convenient, Lightweight, Rugged Construction and Emergency Paracord Lanyard for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking and Outdoor Survival

18. Camping Power Bank

Camping power banks can help bring your electronics to your campsite. Never worry about your phone dying again and enjoy all the perks of having electronics with you at your campsite.

Read all about the best camping generators for all types of camping, including tent camping. For tent camping, we recommend a portable solar panel like the ATEM Power Portable Solar Panel–it comes in both 160W and 200W.

ATEM POWER 160W Portable Solar Panel - Foldable Solar Suitcase Monocrystalline Lightweight Without Glass, 20A MPPT Controller with USB Output, Built-in Kickstand for 12V Batteries RV Camping Power

The KAPURUI Portable Solar Charger is also a great choice for charging all USB electronic devices. It also works as a flashlight!

Power-Bank-Portable-Charger-Solar - 36800mAh Waterproof Portable External Backup Battery Charger Built-in Dual QC 3.0 5V3.1A Fast USB and Flashlight for All Phone and Electronic Devices (Orange)

19. Pocket Knife

You can use a pocket knife to chop food, cut rope, remove splinters, and break a small piece of wood among other things, so it’s a tent camping essential to have one with you at your campsite.

When you’re spending time outdoors, you want a sturdy blade that won’t rust like the Ka-Bar Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife. This is a heavy-duty knife that will accomplish all your camping needs.

KA-BAR Becker BK2 Campanion Fixed Blade Knife, Carbon Steel

If you want a knife easy to carry in your pocket on hikes, we recommend a folding knife like the Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops, which is secure and you be confident the blade will not slip.

Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops SWA24S 7.1in S.S. Folding Knife with 3.1in Serrated Clip Point Blade and Aluminum Handle for Outdoor, Tactical, Survival and EDC

20. Stake Hammer

A stake hammer is a tent camping essential when getting your tent staked into the ground. It’s essential to hammer your tent properly to ensure it’s securely in the ground. The MSR Tent Stake Hammer features a stainless steel head for rust resistance and works well at getting tents into rocky spots!

MSR Tent Stake Hammer , Grey

21. Lantern/Tent Lights

You can never have enough light when you’re tent camping, so it’s a tent camping essential to invest in some battery-operated or solar-powered lights to keep your campsite lit up at night, so you can stay up late and stay safe.

We’ve got a list of five solar lights you have to try, or you can purchase battery-powered lights like the Lighting EVER LED Lantern, which can be dimmed allowing you enough light to either read or light up the whole area.

Lighting EVER 1000LM Battery Powered LED Camping Lantern, Waterproof Tent Light with 4 Light Modes, Portable Lantern Flashlight for Hurricane, Emergency, Survival Kits, Hiking, Fishing, Home and More

Have Fun!

Entertainment is a tent camping essential because you don’t want to get bored while tent camping. Today, we’re wired to always stay busy, so it’s only natural to bring fun activities to do with you to your campsite.

For a full list of entertainment ideas, check out our full list of Fun Camping Activities.

22. Card Games

Put down the phones and enjoy some good old-fashioned playing cards or a game of UNO.

UNO Card Game for Family Night, Travel Game & Gift for Kids In a Collectible Storage Tin for 2-10 Players [Amazon Exclusive]

23. Board Games

Tent camping is also a great opportunity to bring out the board games. We love a game of Clue or Scrabble around the picnic table.

24. Books or Audiobooks

Tent camping isn’t always a group activity, so it’s a tent camping essential to have something to do independently to pass the time. Whether you’re on your own or just need some me time, we recommend bringing a Kindle Paperwhite pre-loaded with plenty of eBooks (a Kindle Paperwhite’s battery can last for weeks when not connected to Wi-Fi).

Kindle Paperwhite (8 GB) – Now with a 6.8" display and adjustable warm light – Black

You could also download Audible and load your smartphone with your favorite books if you prefer to listen to stories. If you are camping around others, be sure to pack a pair of earbuds.

All-new Echo Buds (2023 Release) | True Wireless Bluetooth 5.2 Earbuds with Alexa, multipoint, 20H battery with charging case, fast charging, sweat resistant, semi-in-ear | Black

Tent campers often enjoy wearing earbuds or headphones because they drown out the sounds of other nearby campers since tent campsites can be close to each other.

25. Music

Pack a radio or download Amazon Music on your phone.

If you’re looking to pack a radio, we recommend the Esky Emergency Hand Crank Radio because it functions as a radio, flashlight, and phone charger.

Emergency Hand Crank Radio with 3 LED Flashlight, Esky AM/FM/NOAA Portable Weather Radio with 2000mAh Power Bank Phone Charger, Solar Powered USB Charged Radio for Indoor Outdoor Camping, SOS Alarm

Now Get Out There!

A cozy campsite set up near water.

Now you know all the tent camping essentials for a successful trip. Before you finalize your list of what to pack, check out our post on Camping Essentials List for a Stress-Free Outing for more ideas of what to bring with you.